Enlarger advice: Dichroic or Variable Condensor?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Max Power, Feb 9, 2005.

  1. Max Power

    Max Power Member

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    Hi everyone,
    Right now I am working with a beginner's enlarger, an Omega B-600. It works well enough, but I have an opportunity to upgrade and I need some advice.

    A friend of a friend used to teach photography at the local community college. When he retired, they ripped out the darkrooms and he left with four enlargers. They have been sitting unused in his basement for about 7 years. After speaking with him, he will unpack the enlargers and I will go and look at them on Saturday. He believes that he has an Omega variable condenser enlarger, a Beseler 23, and one of the Beseler 45 series machines with a dichro head and colour analyser. The last one, a Beseler 23CII he will keep for himself.

    All things being equal, and the cost of any of the machines being relatively good, I would be leaning towards one of the 4x5 capable enlargers, so either the Omega or the larger Beseler.

    I will not, in all probability, ever do colour printing. I am an amateur, so I would be looking for an enlarger which would give me lots of reliability for a few decades or so. If I understand, dichro heads are great for contrast, and they give 'softer' images; are they dependable?

    Would a colour head be worth the trouble? Are the Omega VC heads as good as all that?

    Can anyone help?

    Kent
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    The Omega might be variable contrast not variable condensor. The Beseler condensor heads are sort of variable condensor. Instead of changing condensors you turn a knob to adjust the condensors. They call it cone of light or something.

    A VC head is just a colour head but setup for only VC paper.

    http://www.butzi.net/articles/vcce.htm


    That talks about calibrating a colour head so it's like having a VC head.

    If it was me I'd take the Beseler with the colour head. But check which colour head. I think one of the Beseler heads was problem prone.

    A colour head has the bulb. Filters. Diffuser. The only issues I can see are. How hard are the bulbs to find? Filters can be replaced if need be and so can the diffuser.

    A VC head is basically the same thing. But I think they leave out the cyan filter.

    If you don't want the colour head then can you find out which one it is? And if he is willing to sell just the head?
     
  3. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Kent,

    A dichroic head is a wonderful thing. Very easy to work with. Much handier than putting filters in a drawer or beneath the lens. Much easier than learning the techniques of multibath developing (takes up less room too). Condensor enlargers do make prints with slightly higher contrast, but this merely changes your normal filter settings.

    Neal Wydra
     
  4. Max Power

    Max Power Member

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    Hi Nick,
    My understanding is that Omega built a series of condenser enlargers which supported from Minox up to 4x5 and did this by building a varible condenser unit...The condensers can be placed in different positions according to what lens is used. The chap describing these enlargers might have made a mistake though.

    What do you see as the advantage of using a colour head for B&W? I've never used one, so I'm unsure myself.
    Are the prints really that much 'softer' than with a condenser head?

    Thanks,
    Kent
     
  5. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Hi Kent

    If the omega is a condensor with filter drawer above the lens , I would go for this enlarger. KHB in Missisauga is fully stocked with parts,
    There has been a lot of debates on which one is best and for my .02 cents I think this is a wonderful machine , easy to maintain, operate, and align.
    get a decent rodenstock lens for the format you want to use, and a glass carrier. It sounds like a wonderful opportunity for you.Have Fun.
     
  6. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    That's just a normal condensor head. The Beseler condensor head is easier to work with. If you need to change formats you just turn a knob and the condensors are moved into the right place. I think that's the same method used on all the 23s and 4x5s.

    http://www.beselerphoto.com/lightsources.php

    Those are the currently sold light sources. All the condensor heads use the "cone of light" setup.

    Supposedly condensor heads are about 1/2 grade harder in contrast.

    I like the colour head for control. Dial in whatever filter level you want.

    KHB is also a Beseler repair site.
     
  7. Max Power

    Max Power Member

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    Nick,
    Thanks for clarifying that...I appreciate it.
    The documentation I have, though, says that the Omega VC can take up to 4x5, can the Beseler 23?

    Thanks,
    Kent
     
  8. titrisol

    titrisol Member

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    I'd take the dichroic head if I were you.
    In that way you'll have full capabilities for BW printing, as well as Ilfochromes or color printing.
     
  9. Max Power

    Max Power Member

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    Does a dichroic head give as sharp an image as a condenser enlarger? I understand the issue surrounding contrast, but I've heard it said that a dichroic head makes a softer image. Is this true?

    Kent
     
  10. Craig

    Craig Subscriber

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    I have an Omega D5 with the dichroic head, and I use it for B&W. The colour head is quite handy for doing split grade printing, and probably better than putting filters under the lens for the difference contrast grades.

    The diffusion light source is wonderful for hiding scratches on the negative, and the images look very sharp. I also have a D2 condensor, but I have not done a side by side comparison to see if one is softer than the other.

    Craig
     
  11. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Hi Kent

    Condenser Enlarger is much sharper, if you are doing a lot of skin tones the dichroic would be suitable.
    I use both daily and there is a noticable difference.
     
  12. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    No the 23C will not handle 4x5". If you get a colour head enlarger (which I for one would recommend), make sure it has the voltage stabilizer power supply included as this would cost a lot of source elsewhere. Ditto all the negative carriers.

    Cheers...
     
  13. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Beseler includes the negative size in it's names. So the 23 is for 2"x3". The 45s are for 4x5. Omega uses letters. The Omega 4x5s are D types.


    Is the Omega a VC? A variable contrast enlarger usually isn't a condensor enlarger.

    http://www.khbphotografix.com/omega/Specialty/C760Diff.htm

    That's an Omega VC head for the B &C series enlargers. You'll see it's basically a colour head.

    http://www.khbphotografix.com/omega/

    Spend some time going over that site. Get the full name on the various enlargers and heads you're looking at.
     
  14. Doug Bennett

    Doug Bennett Member

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    As to sharpness: I just fitted a dichroic head onto my Beseler 23CII, replacing the condensor head. I've done side by side tests for sharpness, and I'm unable to see a difference. Where I do see a difference is in the tonality (nice smooth grays, less "chalk and soot"), and in the superior rendering of highlights with the diffusion head. YMMV.
     
  15. Max Power

    Max Power Member

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    Follow up!

    So today I went and took a look at the enlargers that this chap was selling and I decided to purchase the Beseler 23CII. It is truly a thing of beauty :D I got it for a very reasonable price and both parties are happy!

    I took a look at the Beseler 45 with the Dichroic head and the PM2 colour analyser and was amazed by the size of it...It was enormous! Very impressive, but way beyond anything that I'd ever need. There was also an Omega B-22 and an Omega D series with the variable condensor set. All very nice, but I took a real shine to the Beseler!

    That said, he is selling all of the others (he's keeping a 23CII with a dichroic head for himself) and if anyone is interested, just PM me and I will get you in touch with him.

    Cheers,
    Kent